Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Richards Bay - Battlefields

Hi everyone,
Last Friday we collected a hire car and drove west to the town of Dundee.  We were in company with six other cruisers from Minnie B, Sea Bunny and Vulcan Spirit.  We stayed at a very nice B&B "Chez Nous" on Friday and Saturday nights.

On Saturday we went on a tour of three battlefields in the area with guide Paul.  We visited the sites of the battle of Blood River, the battle at Isandhlwana and the action at Rorke's Drift.  I won't go through the history here since I'll probably get some detail wrong.  Paul, on the other hand, knows his history very well and is a great story teller.

The battle of Blood River was fought between Voortrekkers and Zulus in 1838.

Original Blood River memorial with museum in background
New Blood River memorial featuring 64 bronze wagons
Isandhlwana was fought in January 1879 and was a heavy defeat for the British army.  The battlefield is strewn with cairns marking where the British dead were found and buried.  The cairns are scattered across the battlefield and extend towards the river where those who escaped fled.

One of the memorials with cairns in the background
Isandhlwana hill with cairns
The action at Rorke's Drift followed soon after Isandhlwana.  The small British garrison held off several thousand Zulus, earning 11 Victoria Crosses.  It was amazing to see just how small an area was successfully defended.  The contrast between the leadership displayed at Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift is abundantly clear when one visits the sites and hears descriptions of the actions.  It's one thing to read books and watch movies, and something altogether different to walk the ground.

View of the rebuilt mission building at Rorke's Drift
Paul recounting the story at Rorke's Drift
Memorial at Rorke's Drift
At Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift there were recently constructed memorials to the Zulus.  These memorials use as their theme the necklace awarded to Zulu warriors.  Sometimes a thorn bush is planted nearby.  Relatives of Zulu dead unable to return their bodies home would use twigs of local thorn bush to return their spirit home.

Zulu memorial at Isandhlwana
Somewhat fittingly, the day was miserably cold, windy and overcast.  None of us were dressed for it, so some of Paul's talks were done in his Land Rover.  It was a thoroughly interesting and very memorable day.

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